EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life
Main types of accident in the workplace
Falls and crushing are the types of occupational accidents which, in Portugal, demand priority prevention, a study concludes. More specifically, any effort to prevent workers from slipping and stumbling at the workplace in the economic sectors of construction and food and beverages in particular could have a positive and significant impact on reducing occupational accidents. The research also notes a lack of data regarding the precise injuries sustained.
A study on the most prevalent types of occupational accidents in Portugal was carried out by the Safety, Reliability and Maintenance Group of the Centre for Marine Technology and Engineering (Centro de Engenharia e Tecnologia Naval) at the Higher Technical Institute (Instituto Superior Técnico, IST). The research aimed to characterise the causes of accidents at work in Portugal, focusing on the most relevant economic activities in terms of work-related accidents, namely those sectors presenting a greater number of accidents and/or higher incidence rates of accidents, meaning higher risk for the exposed population.
About the study
According to Eurostat methodology (748Kb PDF) from 2001, contact or mode of injury together with the material agent are the variables characterising the type of workplace accident. Contact or mode of injury describes how the victim was hurt by the material agent that caused the injury, while the material agent refers to the object, tool or instrument with which the victim came into contact, or the psychological mode of injury. On the other hand, the variable deviation identifies the immediate cause, that is, the event or failure which triggered the accident.
This study was based on seven variables aiming to characterise the typical accident in order to produce a generic picture but which essentially identified the person affected, the accident, the cause and the consequences. The variables used were: gender, age, contact, material agent, deviation, type of injury and part of the body injured.
The research was based on statistics of accidents at work for 2001, 2002 and 2003 from the Office of Strategy and Planning (Gabinete de Estratégia e Planeamento, GEP), formerly the General Directorate of Studies, Statistics and Planning (Direcção Geral de Estudos, Estatísticas e Planeamento, DGEEP). The study focused on the following sectors of economic activity: fishing, mining and quarrying, manufacturing (specifically, the manufacture of food products, beverages and tobacco and the manufacture of basic metals and fabricated metal products) and construction.
The table below summarises the results of this study and shows that falling and/or crushing is the type of accident demanding priority prevention in Portugal. Among the five economic sectors studied, food and beverages is the one in which falls and crushes are prevalent in relative terms, both in fatal (about 43% of total accidents in the sector) and non-fatal accidents (about 26%). However, construction is the critical sector in absolute terms, based on the actual number of accidents. In this sector, falls also have relative weight in both cases (about 28% of non-fatal accidents and 40% of fatal accidents in the sector). Finally, the alarming number of deaths in the mining and quarrying sector must be noted.
|Sector or subsector, based on NACE Rev.1||Most frequent mode of injury (typical accident) (% of total)[N = No. of accidents a year; average in the period 2001–2003]|
|B. Fishing||Horizontal or vertical impact with or against a stationary object while the victim is in motion (fall, crush) – about 31% [N=550]||Drowned, buried, enveloped in gas or airborne particles – about 31% [N=2]|
|C. Mining and quarrying||Struck by object in motion – about 34% [N=940]||Horizontal or vertical impact with or against a stationary object while the victim is in motion (fall, crush) – about 31% [N=550]|
|DA. Manufacture of food products, beverages and tobacco||Horizontal or vertical impact with or against a stationary object while the victim is in motion (fall, crush) – about 26% [N=2,217]||Horizontal or vertical impact with or against a stationary object while the victim is in motion (fall, crush) – about 43% [N=3]|
|DJ. Manufacture of basic metals and fabricated metal products||Struck by object in motion – about 37% [N=7,440]||Horizontal or vertical impact with or against a stationary object while the victim is in motion (fall, crush) – about 49% [N=8]|
|F. Construction||Horizontal or vertical impact with or against a stationary object (fall, crush) – about 28% [N=15,680] Struck by object in motion – about 26% [N=14,243]||Horizontal or vertical impact with or against a stationary object while the victim is in motion (fall, crush) – about 40% [N=48]|
Note: NACE = Nomenclature générale des activités économiques dans les Communautés européennes (General industrial classification of economic activities within the European Communities).
Source: Jacinto et al, 2007
The studied relation between contact and deviation variables showed that any type of deviation may cause a ‘fall or crush’ type of accident, but the main cause – and statistically more relevant – is always slipping, stumbling and falling, and fall of persons (Eurostat, 2001). Therefore, both the construction and food and beverages sectors seem to be those in which any effort to prevent slipping or stumbling could reduce the amount of both non-fatal and fatal accidents at the workplace.
The study also underlines the lack of information regarding the type of injury and part of the body injured, emphasising the important role of insurance companies in relation to improving the collection and compilation of such data. Information regarding non-fatal accidents seems to be available to an acceptable extent, but the same cannot be said in respect of fatal accidents.
Jacinto, C. et al, Causes and circumstances of occupational accidents in Portugal – Some determinant factors of occupational accidents in the economic sectors with higher employment density and higher incidence, Cogitum collection No. 27, Lisbon, GEP/MTSS, 2007.
Eurostat, European statistics on accidents at work (ESAW): Methodology, 2001 edition, Luxembourg, European Commission, 2001, available online at: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/ramon/statmanuals/files/ESAW_2001_EN.pdf
Jorge Cabrita, CESIS